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Why open source the world?

I've been working on The Side Ways for more than 10 years. It has been an exercise in "world building" as much as writing. In many cases -- for those of us who write fantasy, sci-fi, speculative fiction, etc. -- the world building part is actually the most fun. Figuring out, "How did the characters get here? What's the history? Where are the connections?"

I've done this for both fiction and traditional, multi-person role-playing games; D&D, GURPS, Traveler, etc. The main difference between doing it as an author and a game master (GM) is that when you game, you open up the world for the players to mess around with.

This makes some authors very jumpy.

It's understandable. If you're building a world with a lot of maps, back-stories, lore, history, characters, items, etc... it can be very scary to let other people's brains get in there and get funky with it. They may take it in a direction you don't like. They may not like some of the stuff you find most interesting. They may find some parts boring that you love and ignore them (to the chagrin of any GM who's spent hours creating a map for a big set-piece battle, only to have crafty players figure out a way around it).

It takes some getting used to. But once you do... it's a great joy. For one play-by-email game I GM'd, for example, the team (me and 5 players) ended up generating over 600 pages of narrative and dialogue related to the game. That's a lot of team writing. And we only really got about half way to the end before life (you know, that thing that happens between books, games and Netflix) got in the way.

The stuff the players added to my initial world building ideas was truly inspiring. They took stuff in directions I never would have thought and generated new possibilities. I had so much more fun with that world because I opened it up. [If you're the kind of person who has to know, it was a post-apocalyptic "specials" GURPS campaign with psionics].

So... about a year or so ago, I was shopping around early drafts of the first Side Ways novel, and one of my readers was my cousin, Jon. Not only did he enjoy the book, but he ended up writing a short-story about how he (or someone like him) might fit into the Domains.

Fan fic? For a novel I was still working on? Weird?


And what he wrote was really, really good. So I started thinking about how fun it would be if after the books were out and super popular and made into movies and a Netflix series, other people might write fun fan fic stuff about The Side Ways, too.

Then I went back to writing. Because I wanted to finish the first two books before going any further.

But as I started thinking about why I'm self-publishing on Amazon and why I set up this web site and blog to talk about the process and what I hope to get out of it, I kept coming back to one word more than any other:


This is fun for me. The writing, the talking about the writing, the world building, the "wouldn't it be cool if..." conversations with friends about the lore of the books, etc.

It's all about the fun.

So I decided that rather than wait for some far-off (probably never) date for other people to start doing reader-generated content for the world of the Domains, I'd enable and encourage it from the get-go.

So. You can go to the forums and read my notes about the books and world and characters and history and stuff. Lots of spoilers, though... so be aware. And if you want to create your own stuff, I've put up a twist on the Creative Commons licenses so that you can do that. Basically, you can do anything you want with the ideas here -- commercial or non-commercial -- as long as you provide some attribution. The exception is that for four of my main characters, you can't do commercial stuff without checking with me first for permission. Kendra, Wallace, Vannia and Tess are closest to my heart. :-)

So... maybe I'll see you in the Domains Forums. And maybe you'll see something you contribute there in a future Side Ways book...

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